City-parish officials last year hammered out the details of a comprehensive plan to guide Lafayette’s long-term growth and development.
Among other things, the plan calls for making it easier to get around on foot or bicycle, compact developments to fill in the vacant gaps in Lafayette’s core, and sections of the city that welcome mixed-used developments that bring together homes, apartments, offices and businesses.
But that vision might have a hard time becoming reality under the city’s current zoning and development codes.
“Some of the ways we want to see the community develop are made more difficult by our regulations,” said City-Parish Chief Development Officer Carlee Alm-LaBar.
The answer is nothing less than a complete overhaul of those regulations, and city-parish officials plan to trot out that proposed overhaul in series of public workshops this month.
The new regulations, called the Unified Development Code, are a key part of the strategy to implement some of the ideas in the comprehensive plan, a wide-ranging guidebook for Lafayette’s future that grew out of two years of community forums.
The UDC has been crafted with the help of outside consultants and an advisory committee that includes many of the professionals who would have to work with the new regulations — developers, real estate agents, architects, engineers.
The workshops planned for this month will offer an in-depth look at the proposed regulations, which are set to come before the City-Parish Planning Commission on March 16 and before the City-Parish Council in May for final adoption.
Some of the workshops will cater to the interests of architects and engineers, others to developers and real estate agents, but all the sessions are open to the public and will begin with a broad overview of the proposed changes, Alm-LaBar said.
One goal of the UDC is to set up a streamlined process for developers, who sometimes have to deal with several different city-parish departments to work through the tangle of existing regulations.
Perhaps of more interest to the average resident is how the UDC could impact the character of future development in Lafayette.
In some areas, new streets would be narrower and sidewalks wider — changes designed to slow traffic and make walking safer and more pleasant.
The minimum size for lots would come down, making it easier to fill in small gaps in the core of the city that are now difficult to develop because of existing lot size restrictions.
Setbacks — the distance a building must be from the property line — would be reduced in some areas to allow buildings to fill up more of a piece of property.
And combining homes, apartments, offices and businesses in the same area would be easier than under the current zoning regulations, which tend to favor separation.
“It’s all very flexible. We are tying to provide choice. We have been developing in the past decades only in a suburban model,” said City-Parish Public Works Director Kevin Blanchard.
Yet to be determined is how the City-Parish Council will view the proposed UDC.
Many council members are just now digging through a draft of the regulations.
One possible source of concern is what amounts to a complete rezoning of the city.
The proposed UDC has 12 zoning classifications, down from 18 in the current zoning code.
Residential areas will generally remain residential and commercial will remain commercial, but it might be difficult to make a clean apples-to-apples conversion for every piece of property in the city.
“That’s going to be the biggest change and the most controversial,” said City-Parish Councilman Jay Castille, a developer.
If the council approves the UDC, property owners will have at least four months to ask for the new zoning map to be tweaked if they don’t like their new classification, Alm-LaBar said.
Castille said that outside of the zoning issues, he likes what he has seen so far of the proposed changes.
“Overall, it seems to be a good product,” he said.
Follow Richard Burgess on Twitter, @rbb100.